A number of large retailers that promised to deliver goods before Dec. 25, including Amazon, Walmart and Kohl's, missed some of their deadlines, and the finger of blame seems to be pointed at shippers like United Parcel Service and FedEx, according to The Wall Street Journal.

UPS acknowledged that its system was overwhelmed by a last-minute spike, and by Christmas Eve, the company had determined that some goods would not be delivered by Christmas. FedEx said it was not experiencing significant delays.

Weather, Web glitches and late deliveries from manufacturers played a part in the late deliveries, the Journal said, but retail analysts said the sheer unanticipated volume of online holiday buying was likely the biggest cause.

UPS said it expected 7.75 million packages to enter its air network on Monday, but the actual number was much larger.

Although online sales account for about 6 percent of annual overall retail sales in the U.S., that number jumped to about 14 percent this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Over the final weekend before Christmas, Web sales jumped 37 percent from a year ago, the Journal said, citing figures from IBM Digital Analytics. The market research firm Forrester Research estimated that online sales grew 15 percent this holiday season amid slow mall traffic and weak sales at brick-and-mortar retailers.

The snafu suggests that retailers and shipping companies have yet to fully understand consumers' buying patterns in the Internet era, the Journal said.

UPS said that in some cases, it had not received ordered goods from retailers. Amazon refuted that claim and pointed the finger back at the shipper.

In any case, the foul-up prompted some retailers to offer gift cards to aggrieved online shoppers.

Learn more about online retailing.

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